I have been taking a writers workshop that allows me to learn from some of the most renown spiritual writers. From a previously recorded lecture, the late Wayne Dyer happens to be one of the teachers I have access to. While I was listening to him talk recently, he said the number one piece of advice he would give not only to writers, but to anyone, is to simply “Pay Attention”. This sounded familiar. “Pay Attention” seemed to whisper to me from the ethers time and time again during my season of cancer treatment. Even in the moments where my senses were limited to what I could access from my bedroom or my backyard, I found that there was so much to pay attention to. I realized that despite the pain of what I was going through, I was able to access a lot of useful information and creative flow. There were thoughts and sensations from inside of my mind and my body that I could roll around with, observe, and interact with. I found that I could access memories with a sharper picture than I had been able to before. I could see and taste and hear the sensations of times past. In doing so, I could feel the joy and profound depths of meaning in the most mundane life experiences. Often I would feel immobilized by the medicines that were coursing through my systems and I would close my eyes and lay still and it was as if I could listen to my body dance from the inside. An intimacy with my inner landscape was created then. I felt like I was being given a chance to recalibrate the way I moved through the world and related to my body. I was realizing that I was growing and learning from these microcosmic details. It was in these moments that I heard the message, “Pay Attention”, and I set the intention to do so for the rest of my life.
I got to a point where I felt like my only option was to open and expand to the lessons my suffering had to teach me. Since I have dared to allow the thread of mystery to buoy me as I simply set an intention for healing, and then pay attention to what happens next, I have found a sense of being supported and guided. Suffering is so uncomfortable that we want to just alleviate it as quickly as possible. Happy is better than sad, we think, and pleasure is better than pain. But what I’ve found is that avoiding suffering at all costs is ineffective. I am not really growing when I force myself to be “positive” when I feel “negative” or numb my mind with my iPhone or my television just to get through the day. By avoiding, I keep myself stuck in cycles that will bring the problem back around. I have one theme of emotional suffering that has cycled through my life for over 20 years. Since I started applying the intention to learn from it coupled with paying attention to what comes up, the wound has shifted dramatically. I find that each time it cycles through, I am given another opportunity to see it another way. I ask myself questions like “How are you attached to this suffering? How does this wound keep you safe? What would change if this wound was completely healed? In what ways are you responsible here? What does this suffering have to teach you?” I dive deep and I pay attention. The work that I have done around this 20 year old wound has surprised me with delightful shifts in my own perceptions from defensiveness to compassion. I have been able to access bigger gains with each cycle of the recurring theme. These gains trickle into other areas of my emotional life, further shift my consciousness, illuminate further instructions, and heal another layer of the wound. These shifts encourage me to stay the course.A 20 year old wound will have spread other ailments to other areas of the body and psyche, and those must be addressed with time and patience (and more intention and paying attention). This work is challenging, but with practice becomes easier, and it never fails to be satisfying. I think of it as the kind of hard labor that you would put into an ambitious DIY home project. The kind where you can sit back at the end of the day feeling the best kind of tired, with a beer in your hand, gazing at your accomplishments.
My 20 year old wound is an emotional one that affects not only other corners of my emotional landscape, but manifested itself physically as well. On the flip side, I have a recurring physical wound, a shoulder injury. The pain and discomfort of it trickles into other areas of my physical body, but it manifests itself in emotional ways as well. When I started working with the intention to learn from my physical ailment. It looked something like this.
- Take stock of my shoulder injury along with the other sensations I was feeling in my body, such as panic, exhaustion and fear.
- Make a list and utilize the tools that were available to me. Acupuncture. Massage.Physical Therapy. Nutrition.Counseling.
3. A conscious shift of perception. Learning from vs. Eliminating
4. Ask questions like “Why am I attached to this suffering? How does this suffering keep me safe? What is this suffering asking me to clear? What other time in my life does this suffering remind me of? What needs to be healed through this suffering?”
This practice seems to broaden what I am able to touch. When I free write about these questions,it inspires my willingness to do deeper work. Pain becomes my teacher. I see the fruits of my labor manifest on microcosmic levels of my psyche.
So much healing potential can be accessed from where you are right now, despite your situation. I encourage you, as Wayne Dyer suggests, to simply “Pay Attention”.